FDR'S Fala and the Fad for Scotties There has been any number of well-known presidential pooches in modern history, including Richard Nixon's infamous spaniel, Checkers; LBJ's beagles, Him and Her; Gerald Ford's golden retriever, Liberty (much spoofed by Chevy Chase in the early days …Read more. The Yo-Yo Story The yo-yo, like many other things, has been around for so long that we tend to take it completely for granted, not thinking about how it originated or, for that matter, how it got its distinctive name. But now that the yo-yo is becoming something of …Read more. Recollecting and Collecting Mutt and Jeff Even today, more than a century after they entered the realm of popular culture, this comic-strip team's name is part of the common vernacular — put a tall guy and a short guy next to each other and they'll almost inevitably still be called …Read more. For Collectors, the Milkman Cometh You may have noticed that glass milk bottles are gradually reappearing on supermarket shelves, bringing them back into the modern era. But for people of a certain age, there is still no sound quite as nostalgic as the clink of milk bottles jangling …Read more.more articles
Grand Ole Collectibles
Country music is such a broad field — from bluegrass to country-and-western to cowboy to rockabilly — that most collectors narrow their searches to a specific area. One such possibility is Grand Ole Opry memorabilia.
Since the Opry's start in 1925, it has spanned so much of country music's history, its performers having included virtually a historic Who's Who of the genre — Tex Ritter, Patsy Cline, Hank Snow, June Carter and Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Gene Autry, Roy Acuff, Tammy Wynette — and even (in a one-time 1954 appearance — apparently because of some rude comments backstage) a teenage Elvis Presley.
The beginnings of the Opry weren't all that grand. In 1925, a Nashville firm called the National Life and Accident Co., seeking an inexpensive way to advertise their products, built a small radio station on the top floor of their five-story premises, using the call letters WSM, after its slogan "We Shield Millions." They hired a young programming director named George D. Hay, who had launched a popular "National Barn Dance" show at station WLS (for "World's Largest Store," as it was owned by Sears, Roebuck and Co.) in Chicago.
The Nashville version, featuring such performers as the Gully Jumpers, Dr. Henry Bates and the Possum Hunters, the Binkley Brothers Clod Hoppers, and the Fruit Jar Drinkers, (whose "red hot fiddle playing" closed every show) caught on quickly. Two years later, Hay, following one of the station's classical programs, proclaimed on air that instead of stuffy grand opera, he would present some much more down to earth music and call the program the "Grand Old Opry." And then introduced a man he dubbed the "Harmonica Wizard"-DeFord Bailey. With Hay, called "The Solemn Ole Judge," serving as announcer, the show soon drew large crowds eager to see the performers in person.
Its first real star was a Tennessee banjo player named Uncle Dave, who did tricks like playing two banjos at once and flipping the instruments in the air.
By 1940, the show was successful enough for a self-titled movie to be made, starring George Hay, Roy Acuff, Uncle Dave Macon, and several of the other Opry regulars. During World War II the Grand Ole Opry Camel Caravan was formed to entertain the troops, starring Eddy Arnold, Pee Wee King, and the comedienne who would become one of its most iconic stars, Minnie Pearl, wearing her famous hat with its dangling $1.98 price tag.
In 1949, the show, hosted by Opry fiddler-singer Roy Acuff, was picked up by NBC, eventually beamed over a thousand radio stations across the world. Still broadcast live from Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry is the oldest continuous radio program in the United States.
Over the years, the show had a number of sponsors, including Schick razors, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's cereals, Lava soap, Pet milk and P.J. Reynolds and Prince Albert tobacco, some of which issued collectible merchandise. But most of the memorabilia came directly from the Opry, such things as Opryland collector plates, ceramic mugs, moustache cups and beer steins, a Minnie Pearl lusterware cup and saucer, a paper autograph fan depicting Christ kneeling in Gethsemane, a ceramic guitar-shaped bank, brass ashtrays, toothpick holders, wall plaques, cream pitchers, souvenir spoons and spoon rests, squirrel and pipe-shaped salt and peppers, and many other similar items. Also, of course, there is promotional material, ads, autographs and programs — and the recorded music itself.
Linda Rosenkrantz has edited Auction magazine and authored 18 books, including "Cool Names for Babies" and "The Baby Name Bible" (St. Martin's Press). Visit her baby names website at http://nameberry.com. She cannot answer letters personally. To find out more about Linda Rosenkrantz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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